Make this spring a great time for the birds, the bees, and you!
This article originally appeared in Out and About magazine. Read it in full here.
Here in Delaware we have a beautiful variety of landscapes to enjoy, from forests and grasslands to dunes and beaches, and endless possibilities for the home garden. Here are 10 tips to make the most of the spring thaw.
1. Get To Know a Local Tree – The giants of the plant world surround us, lining our streets and shading our homes, and many have been alive longer than you. Pick a tree that you see each day and get to know it by looking at its leaves, feeling its bark and identifying its species. The Arbor Day Foundation has a handy guide for identifying trees at arborday.org/trees/whattree/.
2. Make Structural Repairs and Upgrades – The woody plants and hardscape of your garden provide structure that persists year after year. Evaluate the hardscape while you have a good view of it, before the spring growth covers up everything. See what needs to be repaired, upgraded, or renovated, and consider new spots for garden beds, trees, or walls and paths.
3. Visit a Botanical Garden for Inspiration – We’re in America’s Garden Capital, where places like Longwood Gardens, Nemours Estate, Hagley Museum and Library, Winterthur Museum, Gardens and Library, Mt. Cuba Center and others have created a culture that inspires gardeners and nature seekers alike. Find the garden closest to you at americasgardencapital.org/.
4. Divide and Transplant Perennials – Many perennials can be split in half with a garden spade without any damage to the plant. Dividing perennials like this before they break dormancy promotes plant health and growth, and is a great way to get “free plants” for your garden and to share with friends.
5. Eliminate Unwanted Plants – Early spring soil is moist, making tugging out plants relatively easy. Take this opportunity to thin out plants that spread aggressively, and to get rid of weeds before they get big and mean.
6. Save the Bees – Wild bees, that is! There are around 200 species of wild bees found in Delaware, and they’re essential pollinators for crops and wild plants. Adding a variety of wildflowers to your garden that bloom throughout the season will make sure that bees always have something to eat, and leaving flower stems up through the winter instead of cutting them back will give them a place to live. Popular native wildflowers that support bees and other pollinators are tickseed, baptisia, coneflower, spike gayfeather, native asters and goldenrod.
7. Go Native – Planting native plants in your yard is one of the best ways to support the insect life upon which our ecosystems depend. From white oaks to black-eyed Susans, these plants are the foundation of our ecosystem and provide food and shelter for wildlife and beauty for humans. Find native plants at a spring plant sale, like the one at Delaware Nature Society’s Coverdale Farm Preserve, which takes place May 3-4. More info here.
8. Consider the Caterpillar – Butterflies are beautiful, and they come from caterpillars, which need food (not nectar). Help them along by planting native plants, with plenty of foliage for munching. This is for the birds, too. Caterpillars are the best baby bird food around, and it takes more than 5,000 caterpillars to sustain a single clutch of chickadees. That’s a lot of baby food!
9. Know your Watershed – The Brandywine River may seem far away from your garden, but it’s what supplies our drinking water, and the runoff that flows from our landscapes feeds that body of water. Find out more about your watershed here: delawarewatersheds.org/find-your-watershed-address/
10. Grow Your Own Bouquet – Plant now to create beautiful summer and fall bouquets. A hand-picked bouquet from the yard is the best way to bring the outside in while keeping blooms in the landscape to support pollinators. You’ll know that everything’s local and seasonal, and get a close-up look at the delicate beauty of nature’s bounty. Read more about arranging natives here.